work-life balance

A balancing act – tips for cultivating the work-life balance you want

It’s Friday! Hooray! You’re no doubt looking forward to the weekend and all the fun and relaxation it has to offer, the precious break from the working week. But more and more of us are suffering from the ever-increasing pace of life and finding it difficult to get a good sense of work-life balance. We have busy enough jobs as it is, but even when we’re not working we’re still “switched on”, accessing emails remotely, checking social media hundreds of times a day. In fact, it’s said that today we take in five times as much information as we did in 1986 – that’s equivalent to 174 newspapers! No wonder two thirds of us feel like we don’t have enough time to get our work done.

Last Thursday was set to be the day of our third Happyworks Series workshop – Balanceworks – a look at how to get the work-life balance you want. Thwarted as we were by the tube strike, none of you hard workers could make it in, so alas we had to postpone it for another day. However, I wanted to still share with you all some of the tips and tools planned for that event so that you can still try them out yourself and find a better sense of balance. There’s a mixture of things ranging from the practical to the more metaphorical, so take your pick of the ones that work well for you.

  1. Respect your ultradian rhythm – You’ve all heard of your circadian rhythm, otherwise known as your 24-hour body clock, which regulates when you eat, sleep etc. But our bodies don’t just work on a 24-hour cycle. Your ultradian rhythm regulates your energy throughout the day, and works on much shorter cycles of 40-60 minutes for most people. After this time, your energy, concentration and focus drop significantly until your body has an opportunity to recharge. If you don’t give it that opportunity, you’re going to end the day feeling drained and frazzled – not good for your sense of balance. Learn how long your cycle is and respect it. When you start to get distracted or find yourself gazing out of the window, your body’s saying it needs a break. Give it one. Get up and walk around, get a cup of tea, go to the loo, get some fresh air, then come back to your task. You’ll find yourself not only being more productive, but also ending the day not feeling at 0% battery. That means you’ll also have more energy to see your friends, go to the gym or just converse with your family at home!
  2. Ban multitasking – It may be a bit of a cliché, but multitasking really is the thief of time…and energy, and productivity. When you’re trying to do more than one thing at a time, you’re overloading your poor brain and as a result it performs less effectively than if you asked it to do each task one at a time. Try reading this and eating your lunch at the same time – you’ll probably end up taking longer than if you just did each separately. Not only does multitasking decrease your productivity, not giving your sole focus to one thing makes it more likely you’ll make mistakes (how much soup have you dropped on your keyboard by now? Oops!) and it also significantly increases your stress levels. This one is simple: do one thing at a time. And stay focussed on that thing until it’s done. Ladies, this goes for you too – despite popular belief, there’s no evidence women are better at multitasking than men. Sorry!
  3. Imagine 3 marriages – for those with more philosophical dispositions, imagine if different areas of your life represented different relationships you were having with yourself. So you’re maintaining a marriage with work, a marriage with your social life and a marriage with yourself. Now imagine the dialogues that would take place in each of those marriages. Who would have the most to say? Who would feel neglected? Who are you giving most of your attention to? Now think about what that says about the balance you are allowing yourself. If you treated each of these areas equally, what changes would you need to make?
  4. Slow time down – Sadly, we don’t yet have the gift of time travel to re-live experiences we enjoyed or speed through those we don’t. However, there are some things you can do to give the illusion of time slowing down and so permit you a better sense of work-life balance. Have you ever noticed how your holiday seems to fly by while you’re away, but then feel like a long period of time when you get back? There’s a theory that our brains measure time retrospectively by the amount of new memories formed. If you can form new memories every day by doing something different, then you can automatically create a sense of more time and space for yourself. How about taking a new route to work? Sitting in different seat on the bus? Trying a new place for lunch every day? What could you do to introduce something new to your life every day?

As ever, I hope these quick tips are useful to you to help you find a better way of working. There isn’t a date for the postponed Balanceworks event yet, but please do keep an eye out for news on that by following us on Twitter @bcaushappyworks or signing up to our mailing list here.


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